Song of the Week – Sing a Simple Song, Sly & the Family Stone

Ignored             Obscured              Restored

A few weeks ago. I celebrated the anniversary of the Woodstock festival as I do every year, by watching the 3+ hour director’s cut of the documentary film.  One of the highlights is always the performance by Sly & the Family Stone.  They were sooo good!

My favorite Sly album is Stand! (1969) thought the critics favorite is always There’s a Riot Goin’ On (1971).  Although not included in the Woodstock movie, one of Sly’s signature songs from Stand! was “Sing a Simple Song”, today’s SotW.

“… Simple Song” follows a familiar formula where several of the band members are featured on vocals.  The lyrics idealistically implore us to “sing a simple song” as a solution for dealing with unhappiness.

I’m living, living, living life with all its ups and downs
I’m giving, giving, giving love and smiling at the frowns
You’re in trouble when you find it’s hard for you to smile
A simple song might make it better for a little while

The funk is incomparable.  Great horns, chicken scratch guitar, pulsing organ stabs and a heavy bottom make this track irresistible.

Apparently, many others agree.  According to Wikipedia the song has been covered by  “Dusty SpringfieldDiana Ross & the SupremesThe TemptationsThe Jackson 5The CommodoresMiles Davis (wow!), The MetersBooker T. & the M.G.’sPrinceThe Budos BandMaceo Parker and others.”

And somewhat more significantly, the song has been sampled by hundreds of rap/hip hop artists, demonstrating the lasting influence it has had on many generations.  Again, Wikipedia lists “Ike & Tina Turner2PacJodeciWu-Tang ClanPublic EnemyDe La SoulDigital Underground (“Humpty Dance“), Cypress HillGorillazArrested DevelopmentBackstreet BoysSpice GirlsAlanis Morissette, and Adina Howard” as artists that have sampled “… Simple Song.”  The website Who Sampled lists 477 songs that used “… Simple Song”!

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Tighten Up, Archie Bell & the Drells; Dance to the Music, Sly & the Family Stone; Memphis Soul Stew, King Curtis; Reggae Recipe, Desmond Dekker; The Intro and the Outro, The Bonzo Dog Band


I like a lot of songs where the band leader introduces each of the instruments into the song, one by one. I’ll call them “instrument intro songs.” For some reason they remind me of summer, though when I researched the actual release and peak chart position dates, I’m not sure any of my favorites were actually summer hits. But who cares about accuracy? In my mind these oldies are perfect songs to wrap up the summer of 2015.

First up is “Tighten Up” by Archie Bell & the Drells… from Houston, Texas.

“Tighten Up” peaked in the US at #15 in May of 1968. It does double duty as a song with a dance that goes along with it (like The Twist or The Mashed Potatoes). The song is just plain fun. Other hip bands including R.E.M and Yo La Tengo must agree since they’ve covered the song.

Sly & the Family Stone contributed the great “Dance to the Music.”

I was surprised to find that “Dance to the Music” actually came out just a little before “Tighten Up.” Its chart peak was at #8 in late April 1968. In my mind’s eye “Dance…” came out after “Tighten…” I was surprised to see they were on the airwaves at the same time.

I didn’t discover the next two instrument intro songs until well after their original releases.

“Memphis Soul Stew” is a funky number by saxophonist King Curtis from the late 60s.

When “Memphis Soul Stew” was released Curtis was recording for Atlantic Records. But he had a long and storied career. He warmed up for the Beatles at their historic Shea Stadium performance that just had their 50th anniversary on August 15th. He played that famous sax break on Aretha’s “Respect.” He recorded a cool cover version of Joe South’s “Games People Play” that featured Duane Allman on guitar. But he died tragically at the age of 37 in 1971 having been stabbed near his NYC apartment after an argument with a pair of drug dealers.

Desmond Dekker gives us a reggae instrument intro song called “Reggae Recipe.”

Dekker is best known for his #1 hit from 1969, “The Israelites.” “Reggae Recipe” is far less popular but ought not to be. I’m not sure, but I think this song came out later in the same year. The reggae recipe for this song is pure delight!

And of course I have to end with the greatest instrument intro song – The Bonzo Dog Band’s “The Intro and the Outro.”

This is really a parody of the Part One finale of Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” where there is a pompous introduction of the many instruments used in its orchestration. No time here for the full album side of “… Bells” just to hear that one section, but the Bonzo’s parody is beautiful! In fact, it’s the Bonzo’s Viv Stanshall that calls out the instruments for both recordings.

I tried to think of a contemporary example of an instrument intro song but couldn’t come up with one. Can you?

Enjoy… until next week.


Lawr pointed out “Slight correction, Tommy. “The Intro and the Outro” was released on “Gorilla” in 1967, while “Tubular Bells” was in 1973, What “The Intro and the Outro” really riffs on is Duke Ellington’s “C-Jam Blues.”

He’s right! My bad. I need a better fact checker.